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Dollhouse Shoot Overview

Lesson 32 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

Dollhouse Shoot Overview

Lesson 32 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

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Lesson Info

32. Dollhouse Shoot Overview


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Why Composite ?


Logic Checklist


What Not To Do When Compositing


Shooting for Composite


Changing Backgrounds and Light


Shoot: Simple Swaps Part 1


Lesson Info

Dollhouse Shoot Overview

we're doing a shoot with this is my thought process so I was kind of like well every other time I've been on creative live I've used to kiddie pool so why not just keep going with this tradition and figure out a way to do something else with water but my riel reason for wanting to do this was to fold one was that I've had this idea for so long and I thought why not fail at it on camera and then I can show you guys away later when I finally figure out how it goes but I'm going to try my best to do the shop but the other reason is because we're dealing with an element here that's really tricky to work with both in shooting and in photo shop and I'm gonna explain to you all the reasons why this might not work so I've been having this debate will it work will it not work with some people and the general consensus here has been that it might not work because of the scale the scale being not so much of the dollhouse that we have to work with but the scale of the water in proportion to the do...

llhouse how that looks when it touches so we'll talk about that in a little bit all about that lovely word meniscus there's no meniscus well though I go out that way so I'm going to talk about what this shoot is going to be like and I thought the best way to do that would be to try to draw it because if you know anything about me you know that I'm the best drawer in the world but I'm not actually I don't know how to draw anything at all but I'm going to try to explain what these concepts are so I was thinking what in my opinion is the most powerful concept that I can think of and for me my love of creation goes all the way back to just imagination and being able to control anything in your life if you think about it enough and you believe yourself to be the creator of your own world so I'm going with that theme today we have some books to work with because I've been on this book kick I've been on is book kick because books to me are a way of escape and a way of taking control in a way of becoming the character that you want to create so I'm doing this thing with books and in all of these images that I've used books it's been very much about the book transporting you to a new world about you believing so much in the world of the book that it begins to come true so that's what we're doing here today we're going to do a photo with a book in our subject will be reading the book and as she's reading the book the book comes true so the book is about about a great flood and in this flood the whole city the whole town has been flooded everything has been destroyed so what I'm going to do some going to photograph my subject in my subject is going to be sitting in this water in the hope that I can and composite her into a much bigger body of water obviously I don't want everything to take place in a kiddie pool because that would really defeat the purpose of this picture so instead of being in the kiddie pool the reason why I'm shooting her at all and water is because I need to have the believability of water touching her body the dress actually being wet in some places because that makes such a big difference I have seen people try to composite somebody completely dry into water and there is just the most major difference of somebody who's dry in somebody who's what how the fabric clings how dark it gets on dh then the water actually touching something and that's where I think we're going to have a problem today is that water touching something creates meniscus which is how the water comes up on something am I saying that right okay I just got this you know that feeling of like I just said that word too many times and now I can't rember the meaning of it I just had that moment okay because then I started thinking about mucus and boogers and I'm like ah am I saying something very inappropriate anyway so we're considering that how the water comes up on the edge shit so if the water's coming up on the edge of something that's really small then you're going to see it a lot bigger it's like going to really stick whereas you wouldn't actually notice it as much if it was something big that's sitting in water so the scale of that might not work but I'm going to try to make it work so I didn't something before this class to try to prepare which was I photographed a bigger body of water so I went out in seattle in the cold and I got in this body of water and I photographed it and we're going to see those shots later when we start to edit this image but what I was looking for it was water that was a little bit choppy but you know kind of calm I failed I only found very choppy water it was very windy and so we're going to work with that we're going to work with what we got which is kind of neat because then it turns into more of a storm situation so as I was shooting this water I got inspired I saw that it was really really choppy but at the same time I was on this beach and so the water was coming in waves toward the beach and every time the way would crash the water would splash so I thought well that's a good things now to cover up some of where the water's touching the house and the a person we can have some little splashes coming oppa's well and that will start to cover that up a little bit so I photographed the splashes I photographed the water and I did all of this at a certain angle which was a very dangerous angle if you're ever shooting and water which is kind of low down toward the level of the water so when I photographed my subject now I didn't measure that and I didn't measure it not because I didn't mean to I certainly meant to measure my height of my camera when I was shooting but I was barefoot and standing in water and the whether it was about thirty degrees outside so I decided I'm going to get the heck out of here as fast as I can and not worry about it I know generally that I was standing in the water and I was like this I remember that I can remember this position I know what it feels like s o I was generally at that height the water being about here some kind of like just looking right out at the water so I'm going to try to photograph my subject at that height so the idea the big idea here the first one is this I'm gonna draw my frame real quick I'm always working in a square so I think that's generally square I can't draw it all like not even little sum like oh I don't even know how to draw this but we're going to have our subject imagine her here this is her dress and the water perspective you know it's like I should have had it some someone who can draw do this for me so we're going to help speaks out there in the distance okay so there will be houses out here that I don't know that's a lot of houses it just just pretend sharks okay we just change the concept we're goingto sharks in the water okay so those are houses so she's going to be reading a book that's not it was pretty good thank yu so she's reading a book and then behind her in the distance or these houses popping out behind her now we couldn't get multiple houses I think that somebody would have murdered me if I had said here five houses please put these together s o we got one house and it's going to be kind of like the perfect little neighborhood all the houses looked the same and we're going to try a couple of different things with these houses first thing we're going to try it in the distance eventually I do want to see the water's end and I'm goingto have clouds in the background and what I want is to have some smoke coming out of a chimney in the background just add that believability aspect to this I don't know how I'm gonna do that we're going to figure that out together but that is something that I definitely want to have in there and my subject will be in water that's about cutting her off a tte the waist so that's going to be the first shot that we're going to dio or maybe the sec depending on how this goes but that's going to be one of the images and then we're also going to do a shot where I'm going to have anything okay I'm gonna have the room inside the dollhouse yeah thank you these people are giving me such good energy right now so we're going to have the water filling half the room that's water and we're going to have our subject in there okay so that's going to be our other shop and the way that we're going to do this is by shooting as much of it is possible I don't want to get into photo shop with just a picture of a doll house and a picture of a girl standing there and then say okay now how do I put the water in their here's the problem with doing that is the water as you see in my drawing I just drew a straight line that's not how water actually looks if you were to photograph it inside a house the water would be filling into the corners and touching all the walls and different ways and you would see that meniscus of it actually going up the walls a little bit so that's what I want to create today by putting the dollhouse in the water so the reason why we might do that one first is because I want to then drowned the the dollhouse in the water to have just the peaks coming up to photograph that so there are bunch of different things that we have to consider when doing this like a massive amount of things that I'm really nervous about one of them is perspective and what perspective do we seethe houses at what angle is our camera at are we looking down at them are we looking up at them where is our subject in this final picture in relation to the house or houses all of these things go into that the one that I think might be a little simpler is this one where we have the subject inside the house because that's all at the same perspective so I can shoot the dollhouse looking right into it than shoot look right at my subject and by doing that it should fit perspective wise but with the next one we have this issue of something really really big being made to look really little but what is really big is actually really little so we're actually making what's little look bigger and yet what's bigger should be little are just so you can see my confusion in creating this picture I was like I don't know what to do here but it's still pretty interesting to think about because I can go back to these um these little boards that we made earlier hand within these boards we have to think about every single one of these things today so height mega important in this and I'm definitely going to shoot multiple heights of my tripod completely for each things all shoot the dollhouse at varying heights I'll shoot the subject at varying heights because I don't want to go through this whole set up to then on ly have to redo it this is not the kind of thing that I want to do over and over again I want to get it right the first time okay height then we have tripod so do I need a tripod for this picture how important is that and I'm going to say yes to the tripod I'm going to use a tripod to shoot my subject and especially because well I I have helped today but if I didn't I'd be by myself so I would need to use a tripod to hold the house and do different things with that okay light this one is also going to be really important now I photographed my water that's my photograph that with the if you're looking at it this way with the sun setting over here in this general region but it was still you know there was still light everywhere it wasn't the harshest light ever coming from that area and so that's why we have this set up here which this we have this light coming from above to fill that white and from overhead as well as window light so we might need to power down this light a little bit of we can't just put something in front of it even more to diffuse it a little bit more because the light I would say the sun was over here in the in the image that we're going to be compositing her into but we do need some overhead light so it was really important that we had this light on the c stand to make sure that we could have that light coming in from above and I can see I can do a little lighting test here I can see that it's really really overhead that lightem creating shadows on my knuckles and stuff like that when I test the wight so they're a couple ways to get around that but the main thing is that I need tohave a motivated light source coming from this direction so that'll be really important okay now focus so focus that's an interesting one in this case because definitely the houses in the background of that photo that we first talked about the houses in the background couldn't possibly be in focus unless we have everything and focus but I guarantee you I don't because I shot that water at about three point five so if I shot the water at three point five with my aperture then there's no way that the water in the distance is in focus so I need to play with focus a little bit but I'm not going to do that in camera I'm not going to throw all the pictures of my house out of focus and then after worry about potentially having something that's too out of focus and I can't bring that back so I'm just going to shoot it all in focus and then blurt leader the only part of the house on the water that I need is the immediate surrounding so I don't need to worry about the water that's in the foreground on the pool in the background I just need to be able to cut that water and where it's touching the houses and the subject and move that to my backdrop okay angle now if I were smart I would have a picture of that back back drop right here with me right now but we're going to go with angle and just determined based on our height if we need to look up or down I can imagine that I was sort of looking like this may be ever so slightly tilted down because I wasn't atwater's height looking up so I know that I don't need to look up at the subject but straight on is pretty much gonna be where we're doing here so I was using fifty millimeter lens I'm going to continue to use that lens so that's not going to cause any distortion problems very good I'm feeling very like trashing today I don't know throw everything background this one was really important and this is again where I might have an editing headache later if I don't get this right the background of my ocean was a white sky because the sun was setting and a dark ocean so then how do you photograph your subject if you can't envision exactly where they're going to go I chose to do a white backdrop because her hair is really dark our subject so at the least if I need to move her to a darker background where she's actually intersecting with the water instead of the sky then I can at least cut her hair out a little bit easier and allow that to overlap the dark ocean so that was my thought process but it can't hurt to just take that foam core and said it behind her for a couple shots just to see what it looks like with a dark background so it's one thing we're going to do color I'm not worried about color right now we have daylight balance bold coming in we have window light coming in we don't have any really tungsten anything happening so not worried about color the only thing that I'm thinking about color is exactly what colors do I want in the final picture so our house is white and I chose a blue dress a really sort of fairy tale inspired dress and I tend to use the color blue for fairy tail images I think for me I associate fairy tales with something calm associate the color blue with something calm so I put those two together to try to create the spiritual experience but I also thought that would be interesting because this picture is about destruction it's about ah whole neighborhood being completely covered in water we can only imagine the death is that just occurred so that's bad okay anyway exposure now I just want to expose correctly I'm not worried about anything more than that I just want to make sure that I can cut the hair out of the background so I want to make sure that her hair doesn't go to black in any part but aside from that it's not going to blow anything out okay yeah no before we get into shooting really quick let's back up even before all of this you have a character development exercise that you do that we would love to hear about because that's kind of where we saw a lot of questions coming in about where do you get your ideas how do you develop them and all that stuff tell us that you alluded to a briefly in front a week this year but talk to us about your character development let's do it rene did we do this we did this okay so what I dio is something that started out as just a really personal process it was something that was just fun and entertaining and I thought well this will be kind of interesting to dio on dh that is ah guided daydream so I don't know how to meditate I've never meditated before I imagine it's very similar to this but instead of meditating I guess I don't try to clear my mind of anything I tried to fill it with something something that's not stressful so this is what I do so do it with me if you feel like okay because it's really really fun but I sit out every morning I go outside or at least most mornings I do what I call yoga which is actually just stretching so I just do this and that's my yoga and and then I have a guided daydream before I start my day and I think that's really important because if you can clear your mind before the day starts and fill it with something even better than whatever you're thinking about with work or stress then that means that you can then have a more creative day and you feel a little bit more centered so I start every morning out with a daydream that is very fairytale inspired so this is what I do I imagine that I am on a ship up and the ship is floating through the sky on the cloud it's and so I'm on this ship and there's a captain and there's a crew and I am just in this fairytale dress however I want to be dressed whatever makes me feel like me so the first thing that I imagine is what am I wearing and what are my surroundings like and who am I going to talk to you that morning on the ship and it's really kind of ridiculous and kind of crazy because life feel like the captain of the ship is like my friend now and like I wake up in the morning and I go talk to my imaginary friend maybe that's the weed that I've been saying during why not on so so what I do is I get on the ship and I come out of my room on the ship and I say hello to the captain and then I decide to jump off the ship some in the air and the clouds and what I do is I get up on the edge of the ship and then I jump and once I've jumped off of the edge of the ship I then have however much time it takes for me to fall to the ground toa understand where I'm going where I'm going to fall so I take that time and I'm falling I'm falling through the air and then all of a sudden I've hit the ground and it's up to me to then decide where am I and what's about to happen in this story that I'm creating so now on the character I'm wearing this very specific type of outfit I decide what that is and why that is what it means to me what color is it with the shape of it doesn't move does it flow how do I feel when I wear that outfit and then I look at my surroundings I've fallen and I look up and I decide where am I so where am I might be a field of foggy field or it might be in a forest or it might be in a volcano it could be anywhere and so I make that decision for myself and then I decide what's going to happen so now I have to go somewhere I have to meet somebody I have to save the day I have to you know go sit on a flower I don't know I mean it could be anything but in doing this process which only takes about five minutes each morning I'm deciding for myself what story I need to tell that day and in doing that I've come up with so so many photo ideas is just by allowing my imagination to go wherever I want to go so an example of a photo idea that I really want to do now is I had this daydream that I fell into a forest and in this forest was just twin beds everywhere these wooden beds with children sleeping and all the beds and they couldn't wake up because it was nighttime in the forest and they could only wake up if the sun came up but the sun refused to rise so I had to go on a journey to find the sun and talk it into coming ups and the kids could wake up and they didn't have to sleep forever so it's like really abstract stuff like that but I love having these daydreams and inspires so much on dh so I wrote a children's book that my sister's illustrating right now and just things like that that happened from these little daydream so that was my aside in terms of how I have been finding a lot of ideas lately and how I center myself in the morning and it's just really enjoyable

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Logic Checklist
Must Have Shots
Favorite Photoshop Tools
Lighting Effects
Practice Files - Cutting out Hair from Background
Practice Files - Building a Dress
Practice Files - Swapping Hand
Practice Files - Levitation
Adorama Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Logan Fox

I'm so thrilled to have come across this course and to have been introduced to Brooke Shaden. As a bit of background I do photography as a hobby, and always had an appetite to composite my work. It's only after watching this course that I can finally put a name to a craft that I love, that being 'fine art photography'. Through my own personal journey I've read various books, followed online tutorials both paid and free. When I came across this course I did hesitate. I wondered 'is it going to teach me anything new'... 'would the standard of the course be up to scratch'. Well, I can honestly say with hand on heart that this is by far is one of the best courses I've come across to date. As a solo photographer myself I've found it difficult at times to be both photographer and subject at the same time. From the outset what became clear was that Brooke is just like me in this respect which made the course so 'relevant' to what I do. Brooke shows throughout the course what can be achieved with a little planning and some creative approaches to situations that can be difficult to pull off when on your own. She is such a joy to watch and listen to, I loved her sense of humor and great how the audience were involved in some of the shoots. All I can say is, if you're in to photography and interested in compositing your work, you should give this a go, you wont regret it!


I'd like to show my gratitude and gratefulness to Ms Shaden and other wonderful people at CreativeLIVE for sharing your vast knowledge without making a fuss. Not everybody has a super computer and a top-notch camera, not everyone has a studio to work in and not everyone needs to know everything as perfectly as some instructors and professionals do. I, for one, have gained so much insight and have been intrigued by Ms Shaden's present and past lessons, she makes the most difficult and surreal subjects unfold so easily and effortlessly. Ms Shaden has made me believe no matter where I be and no matter what i have, as long as i have a good story to tell, and the right vision, I should be able to handle it with a working camera and any version of Photoshop. Unlike many other instructors who kill us every 5 minutes to buy their flashes or gear and support this or that company and agency, Ms Shaden has spent the whole time teaching and teaching and teaching and I am sorry I cannot be there to thank you in person, but you, Ms Shaden, are awesome and nobody can unawesome you :)


I have been a huge fan of Brooke's work since the beginning of the flickr days. I'm so excited to see her in her element on CL. So many years ago i was so very interested in learning and creating and CL makes this possible now. A lot of my work has been inspired by Brooke's dark yet beautiful work style and i am super inspired to create some using her advice. I cannot wait to delve deeper into this world i have been waiting so long to indulge in it and now i will even more so than i have the last 3 years. Thank you Brooke and CL ! =) Sarina Gito Photography (

Student Work